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STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESSFULLY IMPLEMENTING AN 800MHz RADIO SYSTEM IN THE PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY ... - page 12 / 54

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“Effective and reliable radio systems and fireground communications have always been

essential elements of fire fighter safety has become a hot topic in the recent past as fire

departments across North America switch to newer technologies, such as 800MHz

systems.” The IAFF also stated, “But many firefighters have reported problems with

newly-introduced systems including gaps in communication that can pose a serious threat

during response to a major incident.” They have learned that these problems usually

resulted from the fact that fire fighters, and their unique communication needs, were not a

part of the system design process (IAFF, 2001, p.1). Phoenix firefighter, Jim Hill shared

his department’s experience with the introduction of an 800MHz radio system providing

a good example of how fire fighter involvement can lead to a reliable and properly-built

emergency radio system. “Before, we’d only heard horror stories about 800MHz

systems,” Hill said, noting reports from other jurisdictions of sudden loss of

communication during major incident response raised serious concerns among Phoenix

fire fighters. As a result, they fought for - and won - representation on steering

committees that were designing the system. “The result will be the launch of a properly

funded and reliable radio system in which the fire fighters have confidence, which is

extremely important”, he said. Funding for the proper radio infrastructure and adequate

user training are key elements to a reliable system, he stressed. “We’re working through

the challenges, but we’re confident that in the end we’ll have a better system than we had

before” (IAFF, 2001, p. 1-2).

Carrollton, Texas, Fire Chief Bruce Varner echoed Hill’s advice on fire fighter

participation in system design. To illustrate his point about the need for user training,

Vanrer randomly handed 800 MHz radio units to two fire fighters at opposite ends of the

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